Retired Maj. Gen. Oscar C. Decker, Jr., 94, died in the early morning hours Friday.
“Gen. Decker was a tremendous asset, not only to the community, but also to the nation,” said Kenneth Bonnell of the Union County Veterans Service Commission.
Bonnell called Decker “a devout Christian who had a burning desire to help others.” Decker’s contributions spanned military, civil and religious service.
He was a two-star general who helped develop military processes and vehicles that Army officials say are still used today. He was active with the local schools from helping to pass levies to developing civics curriculum. He was instrumental in the creation of the Union County Foundation and the county’s economic development director position. He volunteered at his church and for the United Way of Union County.
Bonnell said Decker’s involvements and contributions were “innumerable.”
Decker was born Oct. 10, 1924, in Moorefield, Nebraska.
According to the U.S. Army, Decker enlisted in 1943 and was assigned to the 20th Armored Division, serving in the European theatre during World War II. His unit was involved in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany.
While enlisted, Decker married Ella Mae “Babe” Tillson.
A tank commander, Decker earned the rank of sergeant before his discharge in 1944. He returned to Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska where he was active with the ROTC and the National Guard.
In 1951, Decker again joined the Army, serving in the Pentagon and Vietnam where he was involved in the TET offensive, according to the U.S. Army.
“He had very distinguished service,” Bonnell said.
According to the U.S. Army, Decker held several positions at the Tank and Automotive Command, (TACOM) before serving as its commanding general.
“He had very select assignments in the Pentagon which led to rapid promotions,” Bonnell said.
Decker served as TACOM commander for nine years, something Bonnell called, “unheard of.”
“The Army kept him there because they knew he was the right man for that position,” Bonnell said.
According to the U.S. Army, Decker instituted several “novel actions” still used, including issuing a draft Request for Proposal to interested companies before the final release, and inviting users at the troop level to participate in setting requirements and testing prototypes.
During his time at TACOM, where Decker rounded out his more than 30-year Army career, TACOM developed or improved many of the vehicles still in use, including the M1 Abrams Tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Humvee.
“He served at a time when he personally oversaw the development and production of weapons systems that allowed us to win Dessert Storm,” Bonnell said.
In 1983, Decker retired from active service as a two-star Major General. He moved to Marysville to be close to his parents — his father had served many years as pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Additionally, he had a married daughter living in the area,
While he was retired, Decker’s service to the military did not end.
“After he retired, the Army often called him back to the Pentagon for his assistance and guidance,” Bonnell said.
Decker maintained his commitment not only to the military, but to the soldiers as well.
“In the Army, he was known as a soldier’s general,” Bonnell said. “In Union County, he was known as a veteran’s best friend.”
Decker served as chairman of the Marysville Memorial Day Committee. He oversaw the design and creation of the Union County Veterans Memorial and Monument, dedicated in May 2007.
“What a wonderful monument that is,” Bonnell said.
In 2003, he helped organize the Union County Military Family Support Group to not only recognize local service members, but more importantly, to support their families during deployment.
Bonnell said that when Decker saw returning veterans facing challenges, “he felt that organization needed to support those coming home.”
Bonnell called him “the go-to guy to get tough tasks accomplished.”
He said that Decker led “many significant projects through to goal accomplishment, always with outstanding results.”
Bonnell said in retirement, Decker shied away from leadership positions and recognition, preferring to serve in the background. Even so, Decker’s leadership was obvious to those in the community.
He was awarded the Legion of Honor Award from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains and the American Legion Meritorious Service Medal for his support of veterans.
In 1985, he was inducted into the Army Ordnance Corps Hall.
In 2006, he was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
In 2008, he was inducted into the Central Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame and awarded Marysville Exempted Village School District’s Golden Apple Award.
In 2012, the City of Marysville dedicated the new fire station on County Home Road, naming it in Decker’s honor.
In 2014, he was inducted into the Army Materiel Command’s Hall of Fame.
Decker, 94, died this morning at his daughter’s home in Hay Market, Virginia, surrounded by family.
Bonnell said Decker will be missed by veterans and the community alike.
“Gen. Decker has done so much for the citizens of Marysville and Union County that the debt can never be repaid,” Bonnell said. “This humble man never asked for nor expected recognition. He was content to serve his fellow man in any way he could.”
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